A Mumbai maidan cricketer has a long journey to India

ALJAZEERA

POSITIVE
Once hailed as one of India’s brightest prospects, Sarfaraz Khan spent a decade waiting for a chance to play international cricket.
Mumbai, India – Batting for nearly 10 hours at Mumbai’s Cross Maidan, Sarfaraz Khan first stole the limelight as a schoolboy in 2009 when he rewrote the history of the famed ground in the Indian metropolis renowned for producing great batters.
After spending a decade waiting for his moment, the gutsy batter finally found himself donning the Indian Test cap last month.
On February 15, 14 years since that record-breaking outing in the maidans, Sarfaraz made his Test debut against England in Rajkot, Gujarat.
“It was Abbu’s [my father’s] dream first to play for India,” Sarfaraz said.
At the very maidans where Sarfaraz’s journey began, coaches and young cricketers were in awe.
“I felt really happy watching him play,” Shaikh, who runs a cricket academy, said, pointing to the goosebumps on his hands.
“I have seen Sarfaraz play since his childhood,” Lotlikar said.
His commitment was unbelievable.”Lotlikar was at the maidan with Sarfaraz’s brother Moin when his selection for India was announced.
For 10-year-old Mudassar Shaikh, Sarfaraz is already a hero.

Sarfaraz Khan, once regarded as one of India’s most promising players, waited ten years to be given the opportunity to play cricket internationally.

Mumbai, India: In 2009, Sarfaraz Khan made headlines as a schoolboy when he altered the history of Mumbai’s Cross Maidan, a famous ground known for producing exceptional batters. Khan batted for almost ten hours there.

In the city’s Harris Shield, regarded as the Holy Grail of school cricket, the 12-year-old scored the highest point he had ever scored.

The powerful boy from Kurla, an eastern lower middle-class suburb of the busy city, turned into a national celebrity after scoring 439 runs while wearing traditional cricket whites, which include track pants and a loose-fitting white shirt.

Sarfaraz, an Under-16 player for Rizvi Springfield, broke Ramesh Nagdev’s 46-year record of 427 not out in his innings with 56 fours and 12 sixes. While traveling, Sarfaraz surpassed the record set by another Ramesh, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the cricket legend, who scored 346 runs in 1988.

Local newspapers and national media immediately speculated about whether Sarfaraz would become “the next Tendulkar” after his incredible accomplishment, but the prodigy faded into obscurity.

As he forged an outstanding career in first-class cricket and awaited a call from the national selectors, Sarfaraz toiled away for years on Mumbai’s maidans (grounds).

However, Sarfaraz found himself in the background as the seasons changed and chances seemed to elude him. Following him as batters, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, and Yashasvi Jaiswal were shown off by him.

Last month, the brave batter finally found himself wearing the Indian Test cap, having spent a decade waiting for his chance.

Fourteen years after that historic performance in the maidans, on February 15, Sarfaraz made his Test debut in Rajkot, Gujarat, against England.

Finally forced by injuries and absences, the selectors decided to go with Sarfaraz.

In an interview with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Sarfaraz stated, “It is a matter of pride to be selected from a population of more than 1.4 billion.”.

Sarfaraz was greeted with a round of applause from his teammates as he was presented with the cap by former captain Anil Kumble.

Naushad, Sarfaraz’s father and coach, kissed the cap and sobbed when he realized the difficult climb to the top was finally ended.

Sarfaraz remarked, “Abbu [my father]’s dream was to play for India first.”.

Sadly, that didn’t come to pass. Not everything at home was going well financially. This was the proudest moment of my life. He then thought he would concentrate on his kids, so he worked hard on me. “.

At the end, Naushad, the player-turned-coach, had discovered a fresh viewpoint.

“Before Sarfaraz got his cap for India, I used to wonder why my dreams weren’t coming true, but now I think differently,” he remarked.

“I would like to tell all the children who are working hard: Give the night’s passage its due. In due course, the sun will rise. “.

“He’s the talk of the town,”.

When Sarfaraz took the field at number six for his debut, he had to wait four hours to score his first runs.

After a misunderstanding with Ravindra Jadeja, the 26-year-old was run out for 62 in the first innings, despite having scored a half-century and appearing to be headed for his first Test hundred.

As India easily won the match to take a 2-1 series lead, he remained unbeaten in the second innings at 68, making history as the fourth Indian cricketer to score two fifties on his Test debut.

The town was talking about Sarfaraz.

Coaches and young cricket players were in awe at the very maidans where Sarfaraz’s journey started.

This was a proud moment for Mohammed Akram Shaikh, who trained under Sarfaraz at the well-known Azad Maidan in Mumbai approximately ten years ago.

Running a cricket academy, Shaikh remarked, gesturing to the goosebumps on his hands, “I felt really happy watching him play.”. “I was incredibly proud of the child who played here for making such progress.”. “.

When Sarfaraz was a schoolboy, he would frequently test himself against bowlers who were much older than him. At the age of seventeen, he was representing Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, India’s first-class competition.

Later on, he would make his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut and represent his country at the ICC Under-19 World Cups in 2014 and 2016.

Although he played 46 first-class cricket matches with an impressive average of 70, he had to wait ten years to receive his first Test call-up.

Sarfaraz had to wait a long time, but now that everyone is talking about him, he got his chance at the perfect moment, according to Shaikh.

Two hundred and forty.

Double fifty Yashasvi and Sarfaraz have caused England twice as much problems. Although I was unable to witness their performance in person, I was delighted to learn about their knocks. Keep it up! 🏏 🇮🇳 INDvENG pic . twitter . com/54XVb35HCs — February 18, 2024, Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt).

The force of maidans.

Mumbai’s famous maidans are known for producing some of India’s greatest batsmen, including the renowned Tendulkar, current Test captain Rohit Sharma, former captain Sunil Gavaskar, and batting legend Vijay Merchant. Sarfaraz is the latest success story to come out of town.

Mumbai’s cricket ground is the maidans.

Little boys practice their skills from dawn to dusk, often in the sweltering sun, on the red soil of those dusty fields, where dreams take root and aspirations soar.

Often called the cricket baby, these maidans have uneven, pebble-filled outfields. There is trash strewn all over the edges of the poorly maintained fields.

There are 22 pitches at the Azad Maidan. Players must dodge the ball from adjacent pitches because all of those pitches—aside from one—overlap one another.

A hundred runs is the standard for the batsmen, and the surfaces put players through a variety of conditions.

Because of the difficult wickets here, Shaikh remarked, “Anybody who can play here can play anywhere in the world.”. The ball bounces around a lot because of the uneven surface.

“This is a test for both bowlers and batsmen, and even fielding can be challenging because the ball can occasionally hit your face. “.

Last year, Goan youth Izaan Shaikh had the chance to train on the field with Sarfaraz.

Young players would often receive advice from Sarfaraz, according to Izaan, a trainer at the family-run Macho Cricket Academy.

“Sarfu bhai, who is my brother Sarfaraz, is an extremely diligent individual. The 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batter, who is trained by Sarfaraz’s brother Moin, said to Al Jazeera, “His story inspires me.”.

He has demonstrated that, with enough work, a happy ending can indeed be achieved. “.

“Amazing dedication”.

Prior to turning in standout performances over the previous four domestic seasons, Sarfaraz was sidelined for a while due to injuries, fitness concerns, and a botched transfer from Mumbai to the Uttar Pradesh squad in domestic cricket.

Closely observing Sarfaraz’s struggle has been Deepak Lotlikar, the Karnataka Sporting Association’s ground boss at Cross Maidan.

Lotlikar remarked, “I have watched Sarfaraz play since he was a young boy.”. He was goofy and a little mischievous when he was younger. However, his enthusiasm for cricket was immense. His dedication was astounding. “.

When Lotlikar’s selection for India was announced, he was at the maidan with Sarfaraz’s brother Moin.

Lotlikar said, “I broke the news to Moin and he was so emotional at that time,” tears welling up in his eyes. We all broke down in tears at the maidan as he laid his head on my shoulder. “.

After winning the series last week, Sarfaraz proceeded to play in the fourth and fifth Tests. Sarfaraz has done enough to motivate young cricketers at Cross Maidan, but it remains to be seen if his 200 runs in three innings will keep him in the Test side once players like Virat Kohli and KL Rahul return.

Sarfaraz is already a hero to Mudassar Shaikh, ten years old.

His smile turned into a statement, “I hope I can be like Sarfaraz one day.”.

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